Indian American faces Trumpian backlash against Asians in New Jersey | world news | Hindustan Times
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Indian American faces Trumpian backlash against Asians in New Jersey

Edison township has seen its demographics change drastically, leaving whites clinging to a narrow majority of 44.10% while Asians are a close second at 43.19%.

world Updated: Nov 03, 2017 23:27 IST
Yashwant Raj
The purported flyer that has been doing the rounds in New Jersey’s Edison. Falguni Patel (right) and Jerry Shi (left) are running for a school board election.
The purported flyer that has been doing the rounds in New Jersey’s Edison. Falguni Patel (right) and Jerry Shi (left) are running for a school board election.(Twitter)

Residents of Edison township in the US state of New Jersey have received anonymous letters in their mail that seek the deportation of Indian American Falguni Patel and Chinese American Jerry Shi, who are running for the election to the board of education, alleging that Asians are taking over the town.

“Chinese School! Indian School! Cricket Fields! Enough is Enough!” said the flyer in the mail. It went on to say, “Stop Jerry Shi & Falguni Patel from taking over our school board.” The word “deported” was stamped across their pictures.

The flyer was unsigned, as expected, but the top headline gave away its sponsor’s politics. “Make Edison Great Again,” it said, splicing in “Edison” in place of “America” in President Donald Trump’s election, and re-election, campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”.

Though that alone cannot be proof it’s the work of anyone associated with Trump’s campaign or inspired by it, many people were only too willing to accept the obvious. Trump held his now-famous outreach to the Indian-American community in Edison last October, just weeks before the elections.

“Very pathetic and copycat tactic,” said an Indian American, who recently moved out of Edison and requested not to be identified, unwilling to attract hostile reactions.

Patel is appalled, of course.

“I was born and raised in New Jersey,” she told New Jersey 101.5 radio station. “To see the word ‘deport’ on my picture — where are you going to deport me to? Really, it’s just outrageous,” she said.

In a joint statement, Patel and Shi, both Democrats, said: “Edison is a wonderful community full of amazing people of all backgrounds, this is our strength. So, we will not be distracted by these unfortunate attacks. They are un-American and not the Edison we know.”

Republicans condemned it as well. Keith Hahn, a Republican running for mayor, told The Washington Post: “It’s shameful and disgraceful…This flier is nothing more than a political stunt to incite racial tension.”

Authorities have sought a law and order investigation into the flyer, which as all poll-related material should have stated ownership.

Edison, named after the inventor of the electric light bulb and phonograph, Thomas Alva Edison, who had his main laboratory there, has seen its demographics change drastically over the years. Whites, once an overwhelming majority, now cling to a narrow majority of 44.10% of its nearly 100,000 people.

Asians are a close second at 43.19%, according to the 2010 census, which is the most recent.

Parts of Edison could have been airlifted straight out of a town or city in India, with its people, streets, grocery stores and restaurants. And cricket, a sport that has become the face of the Indian invasion in Edison and adjoining towns in New Jersey, is played on neighbourhood roads and special grounds.

Funded by local administrations, on tax revenues, it has a growing constituency of opposers - the reason behind the “Cricket Fields” jab in the flyer.

Rajiv Prasad, an Indian American councilman from a nearby county who successfully fought back protests against more cricket grounds in his jurisdiction, says it’s more out of ignorance than animosity.

“The founding fathers played cricket — the King’s game,” he said and cited the cricket oval in front of George Washington’s home in Mt Vernon. Baseball was invented as a replacement, he added.

The Edison education board that Patel and Shi are running for manages the town’s 18 public elementary, middle and high schools. Shi is already on the board and is running for another term, while Patel, an immigration lawyer who is called “Fal”, is seeking her first term.